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No to RAND!

From: Patrick Durusau <pdurusau@emory.edu>
Date: Mon, 01 Oct 2001 05:22:33 -0400
Message-ID: <3BB835D9.3F407178@emory.edu>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org

One of the characteristics of the W3C that I have long admired was that
its recommendations were freely available to anyone to download and use.
As the W3C itself has noted, the RAND proposal is a substantial
departure from that practice. This is very much a step in the wrong
direction and I think that can be illustrated by the history of
standards work over the past 20 years.

Compare the practices of the ISO, which does have a RAND mechanism, but
has long made access to its standards a matter of some difficulty and
cost. One of the reasons why standards, such as SGML, enjoyed so little
in the way of open source development was the difficulty in obtaining
copies of the standards. While a majority of us who read/use the W3C
recommendations probably don't produce implementations, there is a large
number of people who do collaborate on such projects.

The impact of any RAND like mechanism on such projects would adversely
impact the continuation and productivity of such projects. In the very
short term, the major owners of IP in W3C standards might make more
profits, but would lose the technical input from the large body of
contributors who work on open source projects. The long term impact
would be very adverse in terms of drying up a pool of talent that such
owners have for free under the current system.

It is true that freeware versions of products will appear based upon
contributed IP but consider that GM or GE is not going to use freeware
product for their publishing department either due to a lack of features
or the need for technical support from a major vendor. Not to pick on
SVG, but Adobe, Kodak and others stand to gain more from demonstrations
and experiencs that users at potential customers gain from open source
projects than any possible revenue loss. 

The RAND model was obviously proposed by short-sighted bean counters who
have no real understanding of how open standards contribute to the
building of a technological infrastructure.

If the W3C wants to shuffle off-stage after a short and very illustrious
career in standards development, that will be a sad day and one brought
all the sooner by the RAND proposal.


Patrick Durusau
Director of Research and Development
Society of Biblical Literature
Received on Monday, 1 October 2001 05:15:18 UTC

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